Back to school with a beer

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BREAK OUT your beer bong, the fall semester is in full gear. College is all about frat parties and tailgaters and suitcases of Natty Light. Right?

Not so fast. For one small group of students at Temple University, beer is not just something to chug-chug-chug. The fledgling Temple Craft Beer Enthusiasts Club actually sips.

Well, not always.

“If PBR is on special and someone else is buying, I wouldn’t say no,” said the group’s president, Alyssa Montgomery, a fifth-year senior business major from Bethlehem.

“But I prefer craft beer, and I see a lot more students branching out to better beer, too.”

The organization got underway two years ago with a few meetings and events, attracting about 30 members, most of them in the business school. They have a faculty adviser, an assistant risk-management prof named Mike McCloskey. They share bottles and homebrews. They chat about the varieties of flavors of their favorite ales and lagers. During the holidays, they do a bottle swap.

This fall, the group hopes that the university gives it full accreditation as an officially recognized club. Its goal: to give students an appreciation for the quality and proper consumption of craft beer.

Therein lies a bit of a conundrum.

First, Temple is basically dry, with no booze permitted in the residence halls and elsewhere on campus. So, if this club of enthusiasts is going to enjoy a cold one, it has to enthuse somewhere off campus.

More troublesome is the legal drinking age; a good two-thirds of the student body is under 21, which means that the club is off-limits to them.

Dem’s the rules, as they say. But everyone knows:

A. There’s plenty of beer in the dorms.

B. As long as there are 18-year-olds, there will be fake IDs.

I raise these two points because Temple, like every university, struggles with the usual problems connected with underage drinking.

The challenge is especially troublesome in light of last April’s accidental death of a 19-year-old West Chester University student during Temple’s annual Spring Fling festival. (She tripped and fell three stories from a rooftop at an off-campus party during the event.)

Last month, Temple canceled Spring Fling 2014.

A university news release said that “a dangerous culture of high-risk drinking had infiltrated the event.”

When I read those words, I couldn’t help but think of how a simple student club of craft-beer enthusiasts could help reverse that trend. Instead of pounding brewskis, they’re savoring and creating a friendly culture of social drinking.

Beer 101 ought to be on the curriculum for every incoming freshman.

No, I won’t kid myself. As long as the United States remains practically the only nation to enforce a 21-year-old minimum drinking age, no college can hope to change the culture.

And, besides, why ask the dean of student life to teach the kids responsible drinking? It begins at home.

“I learned about beer from my father before I was 21,” Montgomery said. “He was always interested in good beer, and he always offered to share what he was drinking. That’s how I got my start.”

Victory Summer Love was her first craft beer. “It’s like summer in a bottle,” she said.

Lately, she’s been enjoying the variety from Fegley’s Brew Works, from her hometown.

Now that she’s moved into Northern Liberties, she’s begun to show her father some of the local spots, including Standard Tap and the Foodery.

So, who has the better beer chops now, dad or daughter?

“I think my palate is more refined,” she said. “But he’s probably tried more beer than I have. He plays rugby, so . . . ”


By the way, Temple isn’t the only local university with a craft-beer club. There’s also one at Penn Law with a great name: Beyond a Reasonable Stout.


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